church bells "sing"
The musical tones are achieved by hitting the bells with wooden bobbins
"Beiern" (pronounced: 'by-air-n') takes place on the day of the Feast of Corpus Christi, on Christmas day, for golden wedding anniversaries, or for other ecclesiastic festivities in the northern part of the district of Neuwied.
For special occasions the artisans climb up the church tower to skillfully and melodically beat on the church bell with wooden bobbins. It is a rhythmic beat on the inside of the bell using keys or freelance to produce melodic bell tones. Rhythm and melody vary from village to village.
Experience is a must
A prerequisite for this technique is mostly experience, a musical ear, and the skill to hit the bells at the right moment with the right speed. The skill is to hit the bobbin against the inside wall of the bell (which beforehand had been arrested) in certain intervals. To achieve this the bobbin is hooked to ropes for example to beat two bells at the same time with a certain rhythm. This makes the bells 'sing'.
A tuneful art
Whoever watches the concentration of the "Beier"- people at work in the very narrow bell tower arresting the bells and hooking up the bobbins to the ropes, will admire those men in drafty heights, who out of strong conviction carry on the tradition of "Beiern".
To perfect their art they undertake tours to the other villages of the Rhine region to get ideas and more techniques from other "Beier"-people. "Beiern" is done in various villages of Unkel's community of villages on various occasions.
In Erpel there are Karl Josef Dung, Willi Hirzmann, Norbert Schoch, and Michael and Peter Kessler who master the art of "Beiern", explains Erpel citizen and homeland researcher Willi Christmann ( 2004). Those are citizens, who in their spare time pursue this tradition, which goes beyond churchly matters. It reminds Christians of both confessions – protestants and catholics – of the original meaning of bells. This includes the chiming during emergencies and alerts, but they also called people to the grape harvest and to church services.
Text and photo: Hans-Joachim Röder